About chilblains

What is chilblains?

Chilblains (CHILL-blayns) are the painful inflammation of small blood vessels in your skin that occur in response to repeated exposure to cold but not freezing air. Also known as pernio, chilblains can cause itching, red patches, swelling and blistering on your hands and feet.

Chilblains usually clear up within one to three weeks, especially if the weather gets warmer. You may have recurrences seasonally for years. Treatment involves protecting yourself from the cold and using lotions to ease the symptoms. Chilblains don't usually result in permanent injury. But the condition can lead to infection, which may cause severe damage if left untreated.

The best approach to chilblains is to avoid developing them by limiting your exposure to cold, dressing warmly and covering exposed skin.



What are the symptoms for chilblains?

Signs and symptoms of chilblains may include:

  • Small, Itchy red areas on your skin, often on your feet or hands
  • Possible Blistering or skin ulcers
  • Swelling of your skin
  • Burning sensation on your skin
  • Changes in skin color from red to dark blue, accompanied by pain

When to see a doctor

Chilblains will usually get better on their own. Seek medical care to check for complications if the Pain is unusually severe, if you suspect an infection, or if your symptoms aren't improving after one to two weeks. If the symptoms extend into the warm season, see a doctor to rule out other conditions.

If you have Diabetes or poor circulation, healing may be impaired. Be cautious and seek care.



What are the causes for chilblains?

No one knows exactly what causes chilblains. They may be an abnormal reaction of your body to cold exposure followed by rewarming. Rewarming of cold skin can cause small blood vessels under the skin to expand more quickly than nearby larger blood vessels can handle. This results in a bottleneck effect and the blood leaking into nearby tissues.



What are the treatments for chilblains?

For adults whose chilblains don't clear up with home remedies, treatment may include prescription drugs:

  • Topical corticosteroid. A corticosteroid such as triamcinolone 0.1 percent cream is applied to the affected area.
  • Blood pressure medicine. A blood pressure lowering drug called nifedipine (Procardia). It can help open up blood vessels.



What are the risk factors for chilblains?

Factors that may increase your risk of chilblains include:

  • Clothing that is tight or exposes skin to the cold. Wearing tight-fitting clothing and shoes in cold, damp weather may make you more susceptible to chilblains. And skin that's exposed to cold, damp conditions is more likely to develop chilblains.
  • Your sex and weight. Women are more likely to get chilblains than are children and males. Also, people who weigh about 20 percent less than is expected for their height have an increased risk of chilblains.
  • Environment and season. Chilblains are less likely in colder and drier areas because the living conditions and clothing used in these areas are more protective against cold. Your risk of chilblains is higher if you live in an area with high humidity and cold, but not freezing, temperatures. They are more common from November to April.
  • Having poor circulation. People with poor circulation tend to be more sensitive to changes in temperature, making them more susceptible to chilblains.
  • Having been diagnosed with Raynaud's disease. People with Raynaud's disease are more susceptible to chilblains. Either condition can result in sores, but Raynaud's causes different types of color changes on the skin.



Is there a cure/medications for chilblains?

Patients with chilblains are generally prescribed OTC medications purchased at a pharmacy. The condition is treated symptomatically using certain medications.

  • During the diagnostic process, your doctor will diagnose or examine your skin condition.
  • Further tests like skin biopsy may be suggested to rule out other causes for your signs and symptoms.
  • The first line of treatment includes measures to keep hands and feet warm and dry, wearing gloves and socks, and changing damp gloves and socks when needed.
  • If the condition does not settle after these home remedies, your doctor may recommend certain medications.
  • Nifedipine (Procardia): This is a type of blood pressure medication that helps open up blood vessels and improve circulation. Side effects of this medication may include flushing, nausea, dizziness, and swelling in the hands or feet.
  • A topical corticosteroid: Applying a corticosteroid cream to chilblains may help the lesions go away. Corticosteroid creams may help with symptoms of inflammation and itching.
  • Vasodilators: In severe or constant cases, vasodilators such as nifedipine or diltiazem might be prescribed.
  • Preventive measures: Dress appropriately to tackle the cold, stay active to help improve circulation, and avoid exposure to avoid Chilblains to the maximum.


Symptoms
Itching, red patches, swelling, and blistering on your hands and feet.Blistering or skin ulcers,Swelling of your skin,Burning sensation on your skin,Changes in skin color from red to dark blue, accompanied by pain
Conditions
Painful inflammation of small blood vessels in your skin occurring in response to repeated exposure to cold.
Drugs
Nifedipine (Procardia),Topical corticosteroid,Vasodilators such as nifedipine or diltiazem



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